Gender Roles and Society

For a long time now I’ve wondered about what makes who I am. Since I began studying psychology, I’ve explored this subject quite a bit. I began life the social conservative, a strict fundamentalist Christian and over time I changed into pretty much the exact opposite! I have been told that when you are young, you tend to be liberal on social issues. Then you get older and somehow decide that you should be conservative. Yet, my example is the opposite. To be fair, you might not think a 32-year-old as being “old.” Still, my transformation proves that life is not the same for everybody.

I bring this up, because it explains my thoughts about gender and gender roles, which is the main subject of this blog entry. I suppose it’s accurate to say that I grew up accepting the traditional gender roles. For example, being the “man” meant having a successful career and providing for one’s family. In no way is that a negative role. I think we can all agree that if you want to have a family, it requires someone making the big bucks (though most likely it’s both parents making the big bucks these days).

Male gender roles go beyond simply making money and providing to the family, they extend to how men identify themselves as men. This self-perception has had negative effects on society, though it might not have seemed negative at the time. The best example is the patriarchal society, which we have had since the beginning of this country. Men believed themselves to be better leaders, having superior intellect, and being more important on a social level (and probably on other levels too). It’s difficult to dispute this, just look at the fact that women couldn’t own land, vote, or own a business. Women were extremely limited in what roles they could choose for themselves.

The problem isn’t the roles themselves, it is the limitation of roles available to women. This also prevented men from seeking roles that were considered “feminine,” like becoming a nurse, for example. Gender bias is an issue for both men and women. When society chooses roles for men and women, there can be a gap between genders. Societies run by men understandably tend to benefit men more than women.

It is a challenge to try to change society from one that is male dominated to one that is much more equal. It is likely true that mathematical equality is impossible, yet that doesn’t mean we should be comfortable with a society in which there is a large gap between social equality. America would benefit if more women decided to serve in the military, in government, business, and of course in industries that are heavily male dominated. If there is one thing I have learned about life, it is that diversity is much better than homogeneity. That was something that the Founding Fathers had in mind, diversity of opinion and belief. Regrettably, they may or may not have been thinking of diversity in the context of gender and race, but as a nation we are working towards a diverse society.

If you are socially conservative, you probably disagree with most of what I have had to say so far, and that’s fine. However, hopefully you agree that gender roles should not be determined by society, rather by the individual. I do believe in civil liberty. Why must I accept the “man” role as others have? Technically I don’t. Guess what? I can decide what it means to “being a man!” Just as women can decide what “being a woman” means. You don’t have to settle for gender roles that don’t feel right. There will be consequences of course. Some people will think there is something wrong with you not adhering to the traditional roles. In dating, there might be conflicts, and it might seem difficult to date someone. However, I think it is more important to be true to yourself. It is especially important to avoid being something you are not.

Recently I have thought a lot about dating and relationships. There was a time when women were comfortable with the role as the homemaker and preferred having a successful man who brings home the bacon. Some will argue that is the way we are made, but I say those roles are a product of one’s environment, not something one is born with. I wonder what it would be like to take up the role of homemaker. My wife would be the 9-to-5er, coming home after a long day. I could have dinner ready and do the house chores while my wife fit’s that traditional male role. What would be so wrong with that? This seems perfectly acceptable to me. Yet, I wonder what women would think of this in general. It is true that women are now the majority in the workplace, statistically. So, why couldn’t I have a happy life where I don’t have to be the one with the big time career?

Now I am not saying that I am looking for a sugar momma. I want to have financial freedom. However, it does seem to be expected of me, because I am a man. I think that most people would think it weird for a man to decide to be a househusband! Society likely sees a man as a moocher if his wife makes most or all of the money. Yet, it does not seem to be true when it is the other way around.

My point here is that societal expectations hurt not only women, but men as well. A society that is more open to people defining their own male and female roles, in my opinion, would be much better. Until then, I must choose the role I am most comfortable with and hope that I find a woman whose role is comparable to mine. At any rate, I will have a graduate education and perhaps even a PhD in the distant future. You could argue that I will be fitting the traditional male role. And again, just to be clear, I am not saying that would be a bad thing. If you want to be the one who “wears the pants” in the relationship, then that’s your thing. I’d rather have a partnership, where my girlfriend and I share the pants (you know what I mean). I want a job that doesn’t feel like a job. Something that I can do well and that helps people. If I can make a living doing that, I’ll be happy. Is that “being a man?” I would argue it is being human. I wish that we could see life without some of the gender bias.

The biggest problem I have with gender in society is that we masculinize and feminize too much. Really, men and women are much more similar than different. Sure we have differences, but I think we focus too much on that. Men and women have the same brains, we both have emotion, logic, cognition, memory, etc… We think differently, not based on biology, because of environment. The biological differences are important and handled appropriately. However, socially, we should not treat each other differently. We are all supposed to be equal regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc… If we focus too much on our differences, we will lose sight of the fact they we are all human. In that sense, we are all related, working towards a common good. At least that is how I see it.

Ideally, we should not focus so much on gender. I may not fit the type of man who you expect me to fit. If you aren’t ok with that, then that’s your problem. I know who I am and I’m not ashamed of it. Yes, I am not perfect and I am sure that I have my own gender bias. Everyone has it to some degree. I suppose the whole point of this blog entry is that at times I feel pressured to fit an ideal that I disagree with and I wonder why people have to be so judgmental. I will live my life as I see fit and I’m not going to change my values for anyone! Well I feel better! Perhaps I should have kept this all to myself, but if you have criticism I can take it.

4 thoughts on “Gender Roles and Society

  1. Haha, boy.. what sparked all THAT? I think it would be interesting, though, to read a post as to WHY you’ve developed the interest in being a stay-at-home dad with a working wife – not something that preaches to the general state of mankind, but a personal exploration of how this mindset came to be.

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